Police reports filed over by-election ad breaches

One of the two articles uploaded by The Independent Singapore on Cooling-Off Day on May 6, 2016.
One of the two articles uploaded by The Independent Singapore on Cooling-Off Day on May 6, 2016.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM THEINDEPENDENT.SG

An Elections Department (ELD) officer filed police reports yesterday against a socio-political site and two individuals for violating a ban on election advertising on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day for the Bukit Batok by-election.

The reports were made against online news site The Independent Singapore (TISG), former political detainee Teo Soh Lung, who turns 67 this year, and blogger Roy Ngerng, 35, ELD said in a statement.

All three published articles online or made Facebook posts on May 6, which was Cooling-off Day.

TISG also published an article on May 7, Polling Day.

Election advertising is prohibited on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.

The ban is to give voters time to reflect rationally on the issues raised by candidates before they vote, ELD said.

Election advertising is defined as any material posted on any platform that is intended to enhance the standing of, or promote electoral success for, an identifiable party or candidate.

In filing the police reports, the assistant returning officer considered the nature of the posts and their potential impact, said ELD.

"Socio-political sites such as TISG that regularly promote, propagate and discuss political issues should be accountable and responsible for what they publish," it added.

TISG, in particular, continued to publish articles even after being told by the assistant returning officer not to post any election advertising during Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.

As for Ms Teo and Mr Ngerng, ELD noted that they "regularly engage in the propagation, promotion and discussion of political issues".

Ms Teo, who contested in Yuhua in the 2011 General Election on a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) ticket, published four posts on her Facebook page from 2.16am to 7.45am on Cooling-off Day.

These included an SDP photo calling for support for Dr Chee Soon Juan, the SDP's secretary-general and candidate in the by-election.

Dr Chee lost to the People's Action Party's Mr Murali Pillai, who was elected Bukit Batok MP with 61.2 per cent of the vote.

Mr Ngerng called for submissions of photographs for a campaign titled "I believe in Chee Soon Juan" in a blog post at 2.08pm on Cooling-Off Day.

Posting election advertising on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day is an offence under the Parliamentary Elections Act.

A person convicted of the offence may be fined up to $1,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both.

The police confirmed they have received the reports and are looking into the matter.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Police reports filed over by-election ad breaches'. Print Edition | Subscribe